New Japan Pro Wrestling
BEST OF THE SUPER JUNIORS 26
Day 3 – A Block
Aomori Martial Arts Hall
Kevin Kelly and Caprice Coleman on commentary.
TAKA MICHINOKU vs JONATHAN GRESHAM
They grapple at the start and move into the corner, and TAKA teases the eye poke as they break. Gresham rolls to escape wrist control by TAKA. Knees by TAKA, forearms by Gresham and TAKA pokes the eye and hits a tackle. Gresham baits TAKA in from his back, great speed and fake out work and Gresham drops TAKA with a dropkick. Nice sequence. Gresham grounds and ties up TAKA, looking for a hammerlock Fujiwara, then transitions to drop back and torque the arm, gets a rollup for 2 and then keeps TAKA down with a snap armdrag. Gresham keeps on the arm and shoulder. TAKA tries the eye poke, Gresham blocks so TAKA uses the other hand and then drops Gresham. TAKA keeps Gresham grounded and works Gresham’s hand, Gresham fires back but TAKA uses his dirty tricks again to stay ahead. Corner knee and running knee by TAKA connects for 2. Nice transition by TAKA into a very ZSJ submission hold but Gresham rolls into the ropes.
Gresham gets a shot at the arm and works smooth into an arm PK and another armdrag. The way this man moves, though. They trade waistlocks, Gresham goes back to the arm and gets a magistral for another 2. Gresham looks for the octopus, but TAKA fights to the ropes as Gresham favors his hand that TAKA was working on. Nice transition by TAKA into Just Facelock, Gresham gets the ropes but TAKA is able to reapply it and rolls Gresham to center. TAKA grabs the wrist and switches sides to keep Gresham away from the ropes, but Gresham makes it. The Driver is blocked and Gresham gets a quebrada, a stomp to the arm, a backslide for 2 and another stomp to the arm. The octopus is blocked into Just Facelock but Gresham escapes and gets an armdrag, covers but just 2. Gresham looks for the octopus again, gets mounted on TAKA and drives in elbows, then wrenches the arm back and TAKA taps out.
Jonathan Gresham defeats TAKA Michinoku by submission via the octopus hold
JAY’S RATING: 3 out of 5
This was a super fun opening match, with TAKA continuing to deliver well as the heel veteran who still has it when he wants it, and Gresham getting a great first win in the tournament. He’s just so fucking smooth at everything he does, and the speed and dexterity of his work might be unmatched right now. I hope he gets at least another couple wins and establishes more of a presence here, though I think he is destined for greatness and soon in ROH.
YOSHINOBU KANEMARU vs TIGER MASK IV
YK is out with one of Tiger’s masks that Kanemaru took from him during a prior feud. YK throws the mask at Tiger and Tiger jumps at YK and starts beating him down aggressively. The action spills outside with Tiger keeping control. Kicks by Tiger but YK catches one and sends Tiger’s leg into the steel ringpost, aggravating a previously injured knee. YK rolls Tiger back in and whips him, catching him with a dropkick on the knee off the rebound and keeps working the leg. Single leg crab by YK, but Tiger gets the ropes. YK stays on the knee work and keeps Tiger grounded, getting a Lasso style hold to hyperextend the knee while grabbing at Tiger’s mask. YK now rips at Tiger’s mask, the ref warns the DQ but YK pushes the ref off and tries at the mask again. Tiger fights back but YK takes out the knee, wrapping it around the ringpost. YK deathlocks Tiger’s legs around the post, then keeps on the knee back in the ring.
Tiger crotches YK mid-climb and looks for an avalanche butterfly suplex, YK blocks but Tiger was able to get a super armdrag instead, but favors the leg. Tiger with a head kick in the corner, then looks for a Tiger Driver but YK drops weight to block and they trade strikes. YK keeps targeting the knee but Tiger keeps fired up and gets a spinning tombstone and a Tiger Driver and covers, but YK kicks out at 2. Tiger looks for the avalanche suplex again but still cant quite get YK over and YK is able to push Tiger off and nail Deep Impact! Cover by YK, but Tiger kicks out at 2. YK keeps on the knee and locks in a figure four but good. The crowd gets behind Tiger who writhes and tries to turn the hold. Tiger thinks about tapping as YK keeps wrenching, but finally scoots himself to the ropes for the break. YK misses the moonsault and Tiger hits the running flying knee, looks for a Tiger Suplex but YK counters and looks for the figure four again but Tiger counters that into a cradle and gets the flash 3 count!
Tiger Mask IV defeats Yoshinobu Kanemaru by pinfall via a rollup
JAY’S RATING: 2.8 out of 5
A nice second victory for Tiger, though I’m surprised that they wouldnt give YK a first win here. Interesting to see how Tiger’s run continues to develop, but he can definitely still deliver. And YK is just so solid on every front and is always fun to watch, so while this didnt necessarily get my blood pumping, everyone came away looking good and got an engaged crowd.
After the match YK jumps Tiger and fully tears the mask off again as the lions rush the ring to cover Tiger’s face. Nice way to keep YK’s cred going in loss.
SHINGO TAKAGI vs TITAN
The bell sounds and they stare down to start. Shingo strikes first and hard. They run the ropes and Titan gets a nice spring armdrag, dropkicks Shingo outside but misses the over the top moonsault, but follows with a running rana on the floor. Titan keeps on Shingo and then tosses him back inside, laying in corner shots. Shingo gets sat on top on the corner and Titan runs and climbs, but Shingo transitions into a firemans and drops Titan on the top rope, then clotheslines him to the floor. The crowd loves Shingo’s fire. Whip by Shingo sends Titan into the corner post, and then drives Titan’s back into the apron. Back inside and Shingo stomps down on Titan. Nice vertical suplex by Shingo connects, cocky cover but only 2 and Shingo grounds Titan with a stretch. Elbow shots and a knee drop by Shingo, who keeps the pressure on. Titan is already looking worn down, and Shingo strikes him down again and stays on him.
Titan finally lands a running corner clothesline through the ropes, then comes back in with an over the top corner dropkick, Shingo gets on the apron and pulls Titan down but Titan comes back with a pele and a nice tope suicida that puts Shingo into the third row. Titan stands over Shingo but that spot really doesnt go anywhere so Titan rolls Shingo back in and covers for 2. Titan tries to get some momentum back with kicks, Shingo fires back but Titan Matrixes out of the way of Pumping Bomber and hits a spring splash for 2. Shingo counters a rana into a DVD brilliantly and both are down. Shingo up first and looks for Noshigami, Titan counters and they trade, Noshigami attempted again but Titan gets a rollup for 2 and follows with a Mistica into a Dragon’s Tail cover for 2. Superkicks connect by Titan, Shingo hits a straight right, but Titan comes back and looks for Titanics but Shingo power rolls through it and lands Noshigami! Cover, but only 2. Pumping Bomber floors Titan and Last of the Dragon plants him for the 3 count.
Shingo Takagi defeats Titan by pinfall via Last of the Dragon
JAY’S RATING: 3 out of 5
Another strong showing from both, though Shingo’s experience edge is clear. Titan has a ton of potential and excitement, but he needs to remember to breathe, because sometimes it feels like he gets ahead of himself and it makes his work less precise. The crowd moment felt particularly awkward to me. But give him a year or two more and I have little doubt he will get there from what he’s already bringing here. And do I even need to talk about Shingo? Jesus. What a fucking talent. I need him to just keep on running through people until he wears some gold. And he can fucking do it too. What a fierce and focused worker. Love him. Give me more.
TAIJI ISHIMORI vs MARTY SCURLL
This is an interesting one for me for many reasons, not the least of which being that Marty was formerly BC’s go-to-guy for the Junior title, now facing BC’s current junior ace. We get the bell and they go to the knuckle lock to begin and feel each other out in trading holds. Both look for finishes early and both evade and escape to a standoff. Back to the knuckle lock and Taiji puts Marty down for cover attempts but Marty kicks out and uses the wrist trap to lay in kicks to Taiji’s chest and then takes Taiji down and stomps the arm. The crowd is appreciative of the counter and mat work. Marty looks for Chickenwing Crossface early but Taiji counters into the LeBell Lock, but Marty gets the ropes to break. Rollup by Marty for 2 and then Marty gets an inverted Gory Special that he drives into the corner, and climbs for the superplex which he lands hard, and Taiji rolls outside. Marty fires up but Taiji evades the apron superkick and dumps Marty, and Taiji hits a Golden Triangle instead to wipe out Marty. Back inside and Taiji covers for 2. Marty begs off and they trade chops. Neck crank by Taiji is followed by a cover but only 1.
Taiji grounds Marty with a chinlock. They trade and Taiji lays in some HARD chops. Taiji gets the sliding German off the ropes, covers but only 2. Surfboard by Taiji, Marty powers up but Taiji maintains control, hits shots and Marty asks for more and just SLAPS Taiji who comes in with a flurry and chokes Marty in the corner. Tornado DDT by Marty connects and both are down. They trade, Marty gets the advantage and fires at Taiji in the corner himself, and stomps a nice mudhole. Taiji heads out but Marty gets the apron superkick. Back inside and Marty stomps the arms, looks for a powerbomb but Taiji escapes, but Marty hits a half and half suplex, low enziguri and the folding powerbomb and covers for 2. Marty looks for Black Plague but Taiji gets a rollup for 2, they trade rollups for 2 counts and Marty gets a razor-close one, Taiji botches climbing the corner but finally gets up for the super rana, but Marty turns it into a rollup for 2. HUGE John Woo dropkick by Taiji and running seated knees connect hard, cover but still only 2. Bloody Cross gets countered with more shoulder and arm work, Taiji with quick evasions but catches Bombs Away with a Euro but Taiji fires back with the handspring enziguri.
They trade shots on their knees, Marty keeps on the arm, Taiji reverse the tombstone and looks for his tombstone lungblower but BOTCHES IT UGLY and almost drops Marty on his head. Marty no-sells the move and Taiji looks out of it as Marty keeps on him. They trade and Taiji now hits the tombstone lungblower and both are down. They trade, jumping knee from Taiji who looks for Bloody Cross but Marty counters it into the Crossface Chickenwing. Taiji with a counter rollup for 2, but Marty is able to go back to the Chickenwing. Transition to a rollup by Marty for 2, Taiji gets a Mistica and locks in the LeBell Lock. Marty escapes and locks in a LeBell Lock of his own, then transitions and rolls it into the Chickenwing Crossface. Taiji fights out of it but Marty DUMPS him with a half and half suplex, misses the lariat the first time but hits it on the second and covers, but only gets 2. Package side driver by Marty gets 2, Taiji hits another jumping knee and Taiji hits his own lariat and covers but only gets 2. Bloody Cross connects, cover by Taiji and thats the 3 count for Taiji.
Taiji Ishimori defeats Marty Scurll by pinfall via Bloody Cross
JAY’S RATING: 3 out of 5
This feels like a lower rating than this match should receive, and the crowd was quite but reasonably generous to the work that was happening, but Marty ended up really carrying a ton of this match and its hard to tell why. I dont know if I missed Taiji getting his bell rung, but things were methodical to begin with and then… I dont know, he just looked TIRED to me and then the botches really messed with the energy and momentum. Both pulled out a nice closing sequence to button the match though, and theres no question of how good both of these guys are… it just couldve/shouldve been more.
SHO vs DRAGON LEE
Like Sho’s singles music, very WWE TJP but I dig it. The bell sounds and they go hard and fast with laying in shots! They just pound away and Sho gets the advantage. Corner kick by Lee, Sho reverses and they keep trading. Lee now gets an advantage to drive Sho down in the corner, follows with a nice hesitation dropkick but Sho is right back up. Sho keeps on Lee and hits a thudding PK for 1 and Lee is right back up. They go forehead to forehead, and both ask for shots. Stiff trading sequence, they keep throwing shots again and both stagger, then fire up again. BIG open hand chop by Lee. Sho gets Lee on the apron and works over the arm, sweeps the leg and hits a basement dropkick that dumps Lee to ringside. Sho with a PK to the arm from the apron. Lee ducks a lariat and Sho makes contact with the ringpost instead. Lee targets the arm and looks for a rana off the apron but Sho uses his power to hold on and hit an apron powerbomb. Sho works over Lee at the corner post, then tosses Lee back inside.
Sho with short kicks to Lee, and then works the arm. Double overhead wristlock with the arms crossed takes Lee down and Sho follows with a grounded submission, but Lee is able to get the ropes to break. Lee with a nice rana and then hits an INSANE SUICIDE DIVE and both Lee and sho go full on into the crowd. The ref starts to count both out and Lee sends Sho back inside. Lee with a butterfly backbreaker and follows with a Fujiwara and arm work. Top wrist lock grounds Sho who gets to the ropes. Lee keeps the pressure on the arm but Sho drops him with a nice dropkick. They look to trade but the arms are hurting. Nice detail. Sho evades the snap German but Lee clotheslines Sho over the top and both go to the floor. The ref counts both and gets all the way to 19 as they slug it out and both BARELY make it back in in time. They trade again with the hurt arms, Lee tries a wheelbarrow but Sho uses the strength to halt him and nails a lariat. Great bridging deadlift German gets 2 for Sho, who holds on and hits 2 more Germans, looks for a 3rd but Lee counters and is able to get the Fujiwara locked in again. Sho tries to escape but Lee repositions. Sho finally gets the ropes to break.
Lee climbs but Sho crotches him, climbs behind him and looks for a Super German, Lee tries to block and does, gets Sho in the tree of woe and hits a big hung double stomp, cover but only 2. Lee looks for Desnucadora but Sho counters with a backstabber and looks for the cross armbar, and gets the arm straight. Lee struggles and gets the ropes. Sho calls for Shock Arrow but Lee flips out and tries one of his own, transitions into Desnucadora but Sho counters into a cross arm straight piledriver! Cover, but only 2. Snap German by Lee connects and they trade jumping knees, poison rana by Lee but Sho fires back with a big lariat and both are down. They go head to head on their knees and start trading again, but are super worn down. They each fire up with each shot, Sho gets a series of elbows in and lands another hard lariat, follows with a lumbar check and hits a big Project Ciampa and covers but only gets 2. Sho calls for Shock Arrow again, but Lee counters and hits a big PK (shout out to Shibata, who is represented on Lee’s mask). Lee picks up Sho but Sho counters Desnucadora into a cross armbar again, Lee tries to keep the arms tied but Sho gets the arm straight and wrenches until Lee makes the ropes, but Sho transitions right back into the hold. Lee picks up Sho and bombs him down and hits a Boma Ye knee, then uncovers the knee for another one and covers but still only 2. Desnucadora now hits, and thats the 3 count for Lee.
Dragon Lee defeats Sho by pinfall via Desnucadora
JAY’S RATING: 3.8 out of 5
This was a VERY good match, though it didnt quite cross the line into 4 for me only because there were times where the elbow work got a little repetitive. But both Sho and Lee were focused and delivered to an engaged crowd. Lee looks good as champ, though I think he’s got one more big level up in him at least still. And while Sho takes another loss, he looked fucking good in that loss and shows why he looks to be getting some significant investment in the near future. Strong work all around.
Another strong day of tournament action. This is shaping up to be a fun one. The standings after Day 3:
Shingo Takagi (2-0): 4pts.
Tiger Mask (2-0): 4pts.
Taiji Ishimori (2-0): 4pts.
Marty Scurll (1-1): 2pts.
Jonathan Gresham (1-1): 2pts
Titan (1-1): 2pts.
Dragon Lee (1-1): 2pts.
Sho (0-2): 0pts.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0-2): 0pts.
TAKA Michinoku (0-2): 0pts.
Robbie Eagles (1-0): 2pts.
DOUKI (1-0): 2pts.
El Phantasmo (1-0): 2pts.
Will Ospreay (1-0): 2pts.
Ryusuke Taguchi (1-0): 2pts.
Yoh (0-1): 0pts.
BUSHI (0-1): 0pts.
Bandido (0-1): 0pts.
Rocky Romero (0-1): 0pts.
Ren Narita (0-1): 0pts.
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